Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

How Centrelink can wreck havoc with your work life and give you 'no' options

2 Jul 2012On Monday I went to report my earnings with Centrelink, a task I do every second Monday, to keep the powers that be happy. On this particular occasion the process did not go through and it flagged me saying that I had to ring Centrelink. I hate ringing Centrelink at any time as the wait on the phone is excruciating. I was trying to work out where in my busy day I could ring them as I had a lot of clients in my job club throughout my day. I decided to ring them as soon as I got into work.

When I finally got through to a Centrelink operator I was informed that I was working too many hours a fortnight. That working 60 hours a fortnight is too many hours and the maximum I can work is 59.5 hours a fortnight and if I work anymore they will cut my pension. It is not suspended but CUT all together.

I was under the belief that I could work as many hours as I liked and that I could receive $0 from Centrelink for up to 2 years before they cut my pension. It was a bit of a shock to learn otherwise and so I have had to embarrassingly speak to the human resources lady at work and ask her to cut half an hour out of my work time.

I was shocked that I would have to contend with such a stumbling block. If I would have said ‘yes' to Centrelink cutting my pension all together because I worked half an hour over my threshold I would have to say goodbye to my home help, medical assistance and other services.

What has erked me the most is that I knew about the money decreasing and I was okay with that but I had no idea that I can only work 59.5 hours a fortnight. I feel I have been blindsided and have had the safety net pulled out from under me. I feel that Centrelink and the government are saying you can only achieve this much in life before we make it really hard for you and you need to decide to either go it alone without a safety net or get back in the box we have created for you.

Such is life!

I have since rang Centrelink again and I got a slightly different story that makes a bit more sense:

  • You can work more than 30 hours, your Disability Support Pension is suspended but you still get your Pension Card for 12 months.
  • If you go back to working less than 30 hours within two years your Disability Support Pension can be re-instated
  • You can work more than 30 hours for up to two years before your Disability Support Pension is cut. Then you have to apply for the pension again if you stop working.

    Clear as mud!

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    Previous Comments

    Deb from Lake Macquarie posted on 22 Mar 2017
    I have worked casual for ages and remained under the 30 hours, (or should I say 29.5), a week, with great difficulty! I was made permanent part time just before Xmas and now offered Full time. I am too scared to sign my contract! I am worried for my health and my financial state of my family. I hope I can 'give full time a go' or I am dead in the water, along with my family.

    Steven from Nova Employment posted on 10 Mar 2016
    This page should be able to answer all your questions regarding the disability support pension.

    Steven from Nova Employment posted on 10 Mar 2016
    Hi Kathryn. According to the Social Services website working 30 hours or more will stop your payments. It shouldn't be cancelled though. When I started working here last year they explained I would be put into suspension for two years, instead of being removed all together. Have you contacted Centrelink about this. They need to know when your situation changes. I know it can be a bit of battle dealing with them, but ultimately they're the ones that will have the final say so you need to discuss it with them.

    Kathryn from Parramatta posted on 9 Mar 2016
    So my husband is now working exactly 30 hours a week on disability support pension. Would his payment be stopped . I understand it will decrease significantly . Thanx

    Drew from Toowoomba posted on 5 Jul 2015
    Hi would firstly like to send my support and sympathy to those whom seem to be troubled by this crazyness that centrelink has continued to do. I myself have been through program after program on off for the past 20 years of my life and are still no better off than when I first applied for help. It seems that the centrelink system is not taking the unemployed seriously and yet keeps applying this downward pressure of why have you not got a job. Well its simple really a high amount of population growth through immigation and the lack of corporate companies paying their taxes has resulted in this and unfortanetly we cant go into this as there is just not enough space to write it all down. But its basic most on newstart allowance are more than likely working already but do not earn a living wage and I myself are in the the same boat and yet we see continues rises in costs of living which is proof that the current polictal system does not serve the peoples best interests. Not being able to get a full time paying job mean forget a house to live in with you children and who wants to live in a house commissioned neighbourhood tryed that once nearly cost my life. So who fault is this again not the unemployed but the large corp companies whom do not pay a living wage to their workers and do not pay taxes to our governments like they did in the 1960s. All the best everyone whose struggling.

    Rick from Melbourne posted on 24 Jun 2014
    Be mindful that employment after age 30 , without you having private health insurance will incur a compounding extra tax for every year you are older than 30. This tax comes out of your wage. Centrelink only counts your GROSS tax , not your take home pay. You could end up worse off working after age 35 if no health insurance due to extra tax levied on your wages. Taking out private health insurance after being on DSP for years aged over 45 is not worth it. They do not make it any easier to even try to go back to work.

    michelle from melbourne posted on 8 May 2014
    thank you, I could not find this information anywhere on the Centrelink website.

    Able from Brisbane posted on 26 Feb 2014
    I've a severe mental health condition, am eligible for disability and have been assessed at being able to work a total of 22 hours. As I am able to regularly do those hours and consistently pull in a pay check makes me reconsider if I am truly disabled or merely able to wear the label. Just as I question how disabled you are being able to work a full 30 hours a week. Sounds to me like you would be eligible for a job seeker payment given your ability but obviously you will loose a lot of lovely kickbacks with having a pension card... You are exactly the reason why this system is imploding. Clearly you can self support as well as most able bodied people but you seemingly require special benefits.

    Johnathan from Ripponlea posted on 23 Jan 2014
    amazing how Australia can call itself a 1st world country!if you're working and trying to keep up with the basic price of living these days, then fine, the government rewards you by making you pay exuberant taxes, utilities, fuel, health insurance; and thats before you even contemplate going out to try have a social life.fall on tough times and the government treats you like a dinner guest overstaying their welcome. you have to fight tooth and nail to get what has been determined as an unrealistic pension. a pension that cannot possibly support an Australian.In what country has the government tested this payment scheme against? certainly not Australian living standards.a 1st world system would not treat a person needing help with disdain and lack of portray such individuals as bludgers, and make us working stiffs angry at them as if our hard slog is their cause.a fair system would treat each person as an individual, and CR-EATE a personalised plan for their situation. it would also ensure they can continue to maintain their current standard of living, without losing health & car insurance, rentals or mortgage, etc.I can't imagine how awful such a person must feel having to vacate their residence and end up God knows where to try and get back into the 'system'.everyone knows that the third party job seeker agencies are a sham. they do not assist the job seeker in any real way.there are a lack of jobs out there; perhaps the government should close its immigration borders until everyone within the country is gainfully doesn't take an Einstein to realise if there is a lack of jobs, and more people allowed to immigrate into the country, then someone has to lose. this isn't a racist remark and one shouldn't feel it to be racist. once everyone within the country is prosperous then the borders can reopen.i have known and know good, well meaning and intelligent people on centrelink. I have seen just how tough it is for them and how it diminishes their value. we need to understand that this is our country and the government is nearly the administrator of it. Lets voice our opinions and make change happen for the better of our country.lets make Australia the lucky country it once was.

    Jai from Sydney posted on 23 Dec 2013
    That is totally pathetic. They should be pleased that you are working at all.This is one of the many government departments at state level, that needs overhauling.The staff have too many breaks, long lunch breaks and haven't a clue what it is like to work in the private sector.

    Karen from Lilydale posted on 8 Aug 2013
    My 19yo daughter is on a disability because she has schizophrenia. Because she has had her condition under control for the last year and she is lucky enough to have a Dad who is a manager she has been doing 4-8 hours of work at the local supermarket under his supervision.She is required to report her earnings every fortnight. Most times she finds herself locked out of the web system,the phone system doesn't permit me to report on her behalf even though i'm her nominee, and she freaks about talking on the phone. This week she forgot to report her earnings and 4 days later we get a letter that her disability is Canceled, not suspended but completely canceled. I tried to ring, 45 minutes later get through, and the telephonist mustn't have had the speaker plugged in and couldn't hear me, usually i get cut off half way through when i ring in. In the past I've found it easier and quicker to go in person. Anyway the poor girl is stressing, when she stresses she hears voices that tell her to harm herself. She will probably end up back in hospital,again, after going so well for the last year, just because of these fools and their assumptions that everyone is cheating. even if she had earnt a million billion dollars in the last fortnight, if she remembered to report it she would have simply not received a payment for that period, so I cannot comprehend why they did something as drastic and stressful as CANCELLING her pension. I'm very angry right now.

    Paul from Blackburn posted on 16 Jan 2013
    Yep trying to get easily attained advice from Centrelink is very difficult. When you eventually do get to speak to someone 2 problems arise.."Are they adding this information to my file thereby avoiding future fines and can I trust what this person is telling me? eg how much can I earn or how many hours can I work? I have just finished looking at the official website regarding maximum hours of work and could not find it anywhere!! I know it's probably there somewhere but it's well hidden. For me it just seems that whoever designs the Centrelink systems sets out to find the Australian with the highest I.Q, the person who can seemlessly negociate the hidden landmines preventing one from experiencing that user friendly experience.

    Melanie from Geelong posted on 22 Nov 2012
    My husband and I have just joined the system for the first time when I was due with my baby in May. We were sure to get ontop of things while we could to get the paid parental leave so we could survive. My husband is a carpenter and his boss and all clients are roten and don't pay up. His bosses business closed up for various reasons leaving my husband without a job when our baby was 6 weeks old. My husband has had very very small odd jobs inbetween for a few weeks. Our payments started coming through easy enough (though the paperwork to start up was excruciating!)THEN!! My husband crashed mentally from the pressures of money and dishonesty in his trade and didn't work for 12 weeks and had no motivation finding work as he became very depressed but couldn't see it. We are still 16 weeks later waiting for $4,000 from his ex-boss which would clear our credit card debt from his business as we had to live on that once the paid parental leave finished. Centrelink would not pay us a cent as they think even with the figures infront of them that my husband earned too much ($19,567 in the last financial year...awesome...) They refused for ages so we literally had nothing and survived on the goodness of our church family and neighbours with food handouts etc. Finally and I mean finally only 1 month ago they have started paying us around $300 per week. That is enough but it is the bare minimum and we are still going backwards because we have the debt to clear and no money to afford it with our baby being in hospital 3 times in the last 4 months. I got some very casual hours (8 hours a week) because Centrelink wasn't helping and the moment I got that work Centrlink started paying me and now I have to report my precious earnings to clear our debt and try and afford a modest christmas dinner as we cannot afford any presents. and now it's compulsory to report the earnings and you have to reply for the application?!?!?!?! What the hades??!!! I had someone give me a bag of bread rolls th other day as the end of day handouts from brumbys and I said "no, really we'll be fine, these are for the poor." The friend replied, "you are the poor". I can't believe thats me now. And I see people wroughting the system all the time and us honest ones are the ones to be penalised... I HATE IT! Rant ended.

    Elle from Adelaide posted on 2 Oct 2012
    Dear Anonymous,Centrelink can be horribly upsetting. I have been in tears numerous times. I also received a debt of $1500 for something which I had declared but they didn't note. I fought it and lost as I should have been able to tell they had made the mistake apparently - I had no idea. So I had to pay it back. My suggestion to you is to pay it back at the minimum amount they will accept which is usually $10 per fortnight. It won't hurt you much and will slowly disappear. Good Luck!

    Anonymous from WA posted on 8 Aug 2012
    Have been receiving parenting payment - partnered and family assistance since February this year we have fully relied on it as I am notOn maternity leave and for 3 and a half months my partner was on a low training wage. I have just got off the phone from centrelink in tears for the second time this year. The first was due to being informed that I had been overpaid and had a 1200 debt. It was due to "not Informing centrelink" of something or other- which I had actually DONE!! I challenged the debt and won! Now, 3 months later, I received a letter from centrelink with my partners fortnightly income listed as much less than it actually was. The amount they had written was his training wage which had changed 2 months ago. When he started earning more I had called c/link and advised. I had also called them again at the end of the financial year and advised that due to overtime he actually earned more and so our income estimate for the following financial year had to go up. I was told that due to payment increases over the board, that my payment would actually GO UP slightly. I was suprised but didn't question it. I was also called in to conduct a random Sample Survey where they reviewed all my info. After an hour long interview and 3 moreLong winded forms and proof of income and birth etc... AGAIN NoTHING CHANGED. Anyway, I Was puzzled as to why the letter said his MUCH lower income so I AGAIN called to query. After 45 minutes on hold I got to speak to someone. I Explained the circumstances and he looked into it. Turns out we now have ANOTHER debt due to centrelink not doing their job. This one is $1650 and they have since cancelled my parenting payment due to over earnings. I have no problem with not getting a support payment if I'm not entitled. My problem - and its a big one - is that now due to a mistake which was not mine, and one which I actually pointed out!!!!! I have a huge debt and no way to pay it. My partner earns decent money. Decent, not great. And every week we JUST scrape by. No savings. How on earth can I possibly pay this, and why on earth should I???!!

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